Thursday, January 08, 2009

Merging Document Management And A Wiki

Recently we had a technology planning meeting to talk about future projects that will be coming in the next 3-4 years. I expressed my views strongly that unless we shake loose of our culture of paper, that IT would collapse under the weight of printer support. Up to this point, every software package that we have purchased has produced more paper than ever before. Anyone that supports printers know; they are a horrible amount of work to keep running. Users sometimes print documents to read them, and then throw it away. Or they take it back to their desk, stuff it into a folder and there it sits for 10 years.

This is very much a work in progress, but we have been experimenting with moving some of our work flow and document management into a Wiki. I have been telling people here how nice it was to see the GNOME wiki being used when I visited the Boston UI Summit. Notes were entered in realtime, documents were attached, thoughts were shared, white boards were photographed and loaded into pages.

After reviewing some of the Wikis, we picked MoinMoin. It not having a database backend was attractive to us, and the directory structure is very elegant. No flames please on this selection, for us it's a good fit at this time. :) The most important aspect of this test is the flow and not the software.

The image below shows our prototype plan on entering data. Project pages are created, and then meeting notes are recorded and linked into their corresponding project page. OpenOffice + OpenProj documents are uploaded right into the Wiki.

We have talked about buying some inexpensive netPCs for entry of information during meetings, and also have talked about setting up Kiosk style thin clients in meeting rooms that would allow meeting notes to be created immediately. This also would allow demonstrations and slides to be put into the meeting page *before* the meeting, and displayed to the rest of the attendees. It really promotes a collaborative work environment.

As part of our brainstorming, I created some mockups to demonstrate possible future uses of the Wiki. In theory, we could try and load most City documents into the Wiki; allowing users to create documents and actually store them has been a failure ever since the start of computers. No one knows where they are saving things, or how folders should be configured and set up. Perhaps an emerging perspective is that they *shouldn't* have to make those decisions. It's to the greater good of our City that in the future, documents are easier to find.

In this first mockup, I have built an idea of how Nautilus could interact with a Wiki. The Wiki would appear to just be a file system, and the document would load into the appropriate software package. When the user saves it, it would simply go right back into the same Wiki project page.

In the second mockup, I have added a button in Evolution so that when a meeting is scheduled, a corresponding page would be created in the Wiki. The attendees would then receive a message with the link and they could immediately begin adding notes and presentation documents.

I'm not sure of the exact directly that we will be moving, but it's great to see movement away from paper, and the inefficiencies of all meeting attendees taking their own notes.


SEJeff said...

Try deki-wiki + alfresco. With alfresco, you can see the seperate revisions of files in a webdav share. In windows, you can map webdav shares as drives. This would be the best of both worlds for you.

p-Lo said...

Well if a technophobic user understands a wiki, then couldn't you finally explain a filesystem to them as "a wiki, but FOLDERS instead of PAGES, just remember the NAME"

Andrew said...

The gnome open/save dialog integration would be awesome.

Then abstracting it a little bit so that MediaWiki or Alfresco could be used as well, would be even better!

rupi said...

Since i deploy MoinMoin myself (as an it internal dokumentation system) and i'm currently working on a way to integrate/automate some things utilizing the wiki rpc API i am very interested in some sample code how you did the nautilus integration.
Is it possible to get this?


Dave Richards said...

seJeff: We will watch all Wiki-ish solutions for sure. No Windows here though, we are running Linux on the desktop

p-Lo: technophobic people are very difficult. Our primary goals with the Wiki are eliminating paper and paper files. Document storage is secondary.

rupi: No code at all here, it's a mockup. In fact, we might be looking for someone to write this type of Nautilus plugin in the very near future.

Anonymous said...

"The Wiki would appear to just be a file system"
I have not used it myself, but you could take a look at:

Lucas said...


See you are still living off of everything I taught you.


Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.